Mental error costly for O's in 5-1 defeat

First baseman Gibbons' ill-advised cutoff in 8th leads to four-run rally by Athletics



A mental blunder at first base by converted outfielder Jay Gibbons paved the road to ruin for the Orioles last night.

And it was a speedy descent once Gibbons cut off a throw from relief pitcher Steve Kline that would have gotten the first out in a four-run, eighth-inning rally the Oakland Athletics used to forge a 5-1 victory at Camden Yards.

Gibbons, an inexperienced first baseman with only 12 starts there last season, didn't get out of the way after Kline fielded Mark Kotsay's sacrifice bunt attempt. With second baseman Brian Roberts behind him on the bag, Gibbons caught Kline's throw and the Athletics had runners on first and second.

"I've never seen that play before." Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said. "The leadoff walk also doesn't help. Obviously he got caught in the middle and didn't get back in time."

Said Gibbons: Usually I charge and bail out. It's my fault."

In a game played under a steady drizzle and before only 16,395 fans, Oakland made the Orioles pay for the gaffe quickly.

Eric Byrnes hammered Kline's second pitch over the center- field fence for a three-run homer to break a 1-1 tie.

Oakland added another run on a double by Eric Chavez and a single by Erubiel Durazo before Jorge Julio came on to shut down the inning.

The loss spoiled a superb outing for Orioles starter Erik Bedard, who allowed just one run and three hits in seven strong innings of work. Bedard left with a 1-1 tie in the eighth after throwing 105 pitches.

The bad blood that surfaced in Wednesday's game spilled over into last night, when the sluggers for both teams were hit by pitches one batter apart.

With two outs in the third, Oakland pitcher Danny Haren threw a high fastball that caught Sammy Sosa high on the left shoulder, narrowly missing his head. Sosa squared around at the plate, faced Haren and raised both palms.

Home plate umpire Laz Diaz quickly escorted Sosa toward first base. Rafael Palmiero then struck out to end the inning.

But on the first pitch of the next inning, Bedard hit Chavez in the thigh with a fastball. That sent Diaz out to the middle of the infield to warn both teams they were now in a zero-tolerance mode and the next incident would result in ejection.

On Wednesday, four batters were hit in Oakland's 9-0 win. The incident that raised tempers was when the Athletics" Scott Hatteberg was hit by Daniel Cabrera on a 3-0 count. While Hatteberg railed at Cabrera, the Orioles pitcher simply glowered back.

Other than throwing pitches with retaliatory messages, Bedard and Haren both settled down after rough starts.

Bedard gave up a broken-bat single to Byrnes in the A's first, then balked him to second. The balk proved costly when Jason Kendall knocked in Byrnes with a single to right.

The Orioles answered quickly in their half of the inning, when Roberts ripped the second leadoff home run of his career 354 feet to right.

In the second, Roberts came within a matter of feet of sending the Orioles ahead with a shot down the right-field line. With two Orioles on, Haren pitched cautiously to Roberts and ran the count full.

Roberts crushed Haren's next delivery down the line and off the fence in foul territory. One pitch later, he walked to fill the bases. But center fielder Kotsay speared Dave Newhan's sinking liner in center to snuff the threat.

That was the Orioles" only scoring opportunity until Sosa belted a ground-rule double over the left-field wall at the 364-foot sign in the sixth. Javy Lopez drew a two-out walk, but B. J. Surhoff, making his first start of the season, flied to center to end the inning.

The Orioles stranded seven runners through six innings, and were 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position.

Going into last night's rubber match in the opening three- game series, the Athletics had won six consecutive series against the Orioles and were 42-18 against them since 1999.

Haren was making his first start for Oakland since being aquired in the Dec. 18 trade that sent A's pitcher Mark Mulder to St. Louis.

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